dear wildcat

winter comes again in time and our
skin splits/ the heckling of stars:
the way implied, they could

be a sun, be the warnth
spoken of, yes I know
and we instead cracked

cups glued many times
upon the cloth-
hold fast.

how small the earthquakes warn
of a shatter and maybe
we choose to tie the rope tight
instead, tight around

our own eyes-

my dear friend, hold fast,
hold the hands of your choosing
eyes shuttered and heart wild
with hollow rage like

a sun burns
from its self until done.

and what can we choose but
an anthem of joy or
despair?

dear wildcat, please free yourself
of the hunters trap and if
you must chew your own
leg to be free, be free

or if the rope is tight
and just right, I will try to
find you if you ask,

because I know your wild heart
and you know I am cracked
and full of nuance and
deepest love/

the pain of John’s death, of my
father, of my child self that never
was free and you know and
you know: until your kind

came along and saw me jumping
above the waves, diving with breath
held and swimming, always swimming.
Now I wade where they cannot rip
feet from sand and stand
feeling the crash all around/

it will be a choice again, dear friend

to let an anger go that will not
destroy your enemies, at the
knowledge that nature is unjust
and will not strike down those who

would harm but give them chance
after chance… for you and I
to speak truthfully and
unfomfortably is

the only justice.

I argue you are what joy is born from
painfully and fully, so pull
the wound wide and bare
and see like the ocean waves
there is no choice

but to return to the shore pounding,
flailing as a storm brews or in a sleepy slumber
beneath a still blue free of everything
but the pull of time, no choice

but to hold, “thought by thought.”

through the trees

I smell gardenias when I think of warmth,
feel smooth, hardwood under still new feet
how little hands can scale old

umbrella trees like that iguana
castaway one morning after a hurricane
I spotted arching up into the leaves 

and little feet swinging in the air:
how I hid a small cache of treasure
perched on a branch that 

holds little girls, too/

shiny plastics from my costume
I wore during the warm, Miami nights
twirling and dancing in parades

flipping on the black asphalt,
sometimes landing on my knees still,
and unconcerned I’d collect the

shiny stones that fell off and
put them in the tree hole somewhere
high up- reminded of how I could shine

so bright when I moved quickly,
how people watched
entranced with my spinning.

One evening after dark
I played on the sidewalk on my own
an only child and wildly imaginative 

and spotted the cactuses slowly opening their flowers

like they did every night: a night-blooming
cereus that I went over to put a tiny lizard,
a green anole, on its topmost point

of green just above the little spike 

how it launched itself into the darkness
between itself and the ground way below-
my alarm and wonder at his tiny bounce 

before he ran. What if, he had stayed
atop the blooms having been placed
so safely by my hand,

where the stars above were now closer
and the grass that usually towered, tiny
and inconsequential? And, I hoped

it would feel freedom like I did
up in my tree, free from all
the must-dos and perfection 

the pressure to remain small
but be admirable. I found myself
closer to myself in every treetop

or perched on a floating log
in the partially frozen alpine lake
one spring or stepping further

into the warm waves of the Atlantic
where all that is heard now
is time and my own heart.

we guide the form, in naming

I could not be solid
being hard in thinking instead
far in seeing past
the stories I was told

were the way things were,
and holding this truth
felt dangerous at times.

I could not be solid,
yet more an amorphous
shape shifting with every
change in the wind

like a ghost I thought at first
like the chaos before the fiery
center of a new star that

is warm whether the sun shines
somewhere near or is one day gone,
I realized eventually.

But, it’s just truth, and I really
have wanted to hide in my room
many times or to walk into a forest
and be gone awhile, and instead

of getting angry, I tried wrapping
myself in petals and song
like Billy or Leonard sinking into
my heart and forming or

opened the window and let the wind
gather in my mouth until
I could laugh

and maybe it was good to learn this/

where what is real and natural and beautiful
is dangerous to people too damaged
and still in hiding, maybe

for the rest of their lives because
they are still afraid-

and children who cannot tell
because they must protect others first
to survive, feel it like a scream
they wouldn’t dare and

the feelings in that hypocrisy-
when you should cry
if it is time and rage if it is
required

because to not, makes
better understandable why
someone cannot love.

But, children learn to live
with a feeling they cannot speak
the name of except, I am sad
or crawling into bed one night terrified
of dying when the house is

so quiet and so safe,

it will take work to learn to speak;
and yes, I am serious inside
and thoughtful or maybe

I became this way and was someone
before, but I only know what I was
by what I survived then like

a starfish only looks up
from the ocean floor.

And now, I sometimes need to
stand in the cold somewhere vast
and empty or sit in the sun
as it almost burns midsummer

wanting to stay just there
looking and feeling for something
like a clock knows it was made
to tell the time and will

suddenly stop moving/ hands
pointing at whatever, maybe
it is one in the morning when no one
is looking and thinking, ‘that

is a clock’- how it notices
in this moment the shape of the moon
in its own inspiration and says,
I am not ‘a clock/’

becomes what can be believed
somehow and with little guidance
except stories and what we have
known of love and the songs we hear-

people like stars orbit an unseen force

and call the name and
tell the story of each
named thing like

this is my heart in
every name given.

habitants

When broken, rebuilt
are entirely new children-

the people we play
              the ones we remember from a story or memory
in their shiny, forming hearts

like ghosts beneath the fingernails
we scratch at when there is an itch
on the brow, of fathers       

tender        of mothers and their dreams
even when      splintered from unkindness/

it is the mantle of yesterday, of those
we have loved and not our own

dreams and hope. And see,
when broken and like a child
again, so spectacularly

a life kinder than once known-now

we could be   brave
flowers are on
                      the table because we remembered

to walk to the garden every weekend/coffee
brews on Saturday morning
                          little feet already rushing under the sun.

My heart,

does a war rage outside
              the bedroom window? Are the people

who wage it                 Kind Folk?

I want to ask for a reprieve     tell the ants
making their way up the picnic basket, I

will be back tomorrow, cross
my heart.

When I blow upon my own hand
dust in the dim light is like
starshine/and so,

I look to no other. The children
receive our debt/ and the
debt we have paid

like lit paths we must have left
forging through the longer
nights, even when we
are still children.

it’s a snowy warmth he offers

Not your hang-girl,
not in the sun, syrup
from plump figs/no,

the frozen place near
Saint Helens where I
breathed in the cold

burned and made the heart
drum/ with bracing rhythm
that holds a long winter.

There is always a certain
in a man’s face, the wrong
things my father said and

I was just pretty enough
he said, too. I know also

aligned to a certain danger,
the threat of beauty palpable,
my snow-blind, hardened ice;

the warmth of dreams
a river beneath, ended in
my mouth | flowers,

blue asters and jasmine like
new stars under the sun.

I prefer crush like heavy
to feel the world outweigh
things unneeded : the desire

of life without pain without
poems without the color
of indigo,

how someone might look this way:
shakes the pollen free>
I need the weight

the way known
the heart blooms in
the shade of black

irises, muddy feet running
toward thunder.

evolution of cold flowers

Cold-weather flower,
the crush of snow does not
stop the way petals push-

I like to believe me and him
were cold-weather sorts,
simply. The way moms say,

‘get up,’ say, ‘where-
are-my-keys,’ like mine
claps her finger cymbals

when she dances/
a certain pattern to the running
in her heart, like an anxious bird

beneath the snow
the sun seeks,

and the little bird untold.

***

When I’m a grown woman,
she says to me, “you
intimidated me, all those
things you would say;
I didn’t know what you meant”
and I hear, “I didn’t know

what you intended to do to me”
-because of a habit of hiding
from inconvenient truths/

I used to sit beneath the biggest
tree I could find reading about
better worlds than this

to forget the way it felt
her laughter of small,
feminine sounds

in an empty room.

I say things like
‘sorry’ like ‘I love you’ like
an allergy blooms

sometimes slow and then
suddenly unbearable/ the
inauthenticity is pale

and colorless. I sit after
school on the old sign
and the hot bricks feel good

to me, sketching all the things
I can see that are real like
dragonflies and the rubber

wheel of a car as I wait
a little bit longer to go home.

I say, I love you, but
I want to say I am something
beautiful you are missing.

***

A cup with no handle-
useful? Still holds so much
like a bright, blank page-
sometimes I use a
pen like a lever
to lift the cup up
to the faucet.

***

Six-years-old/ plays
shark: my best-est friend
Amber chases in the pool,
a lock of golden hair dripping
wet and pointed like a sharp
weapon, says, “Shark tooth!”
yelling and laughing and I
swim as fast as I can
swallowing water

in fits of giggles-
people say the word silly:
I want to define it, survival
and to call it instead, heroic.

***

I work at a Winn Dixie through college
down the street from the projects-
southern women tell me I speak
‘like a baby.’ I swallow razor blades

before each shift though it bleeds
because my voice is very small
and I seem very small, too.

They stop one day
maybe because they notice I am
relentless, but I learn

I am an angry misfit of sorts
hiding behind a small frame
and long hair I sometimes

wear in pigtails so they will
never know how serious I
am, the disastrous maelstrom

in my heart that would be
set free- Big cat and claws
and all their pain, too

I can see is just
too much.

***

The angry say,
they cannot open their
eyes, see you without
being afraid of their
own hollow space.

***
One time I stepped in the snow
up on Mount Saint Helens mid-winter
and was standing on a bench,
snow-blinded. The laughter
that bubbled same as

when she lost her temper.

That time dad took me to San
Francisco to visit my uncle
who in the front seat of our
car going down Lombard
asks, “does she speak?” with
his kind eyes looking
in the rearview, and I

look at the trees
with their boughs like grandma’s
lap as she braids my hair in
some memory.

***

Zipper-mouth girls and boys
tragic or beautiful depending
on whether they would dare
ask to be tragic

or the loveliest/ cold-weather
flowers with roots deep
in the snow.

***

my gratitude

A pressing cloud
time could open or lift

maybe a wind maybe a branch

in the path of a small bird,
her feet trembling,

to grasp just and dare hope
she will fly away and make useful,

a branch into a home.

Memory is my strength, the press
of air on a sea of golden leaves

and blaze of autumn a cane:
I will walk forever even when my feet

are broken birds like birds broken
beneath the lowest branches- to see

but not see they are gone, me
and others falling will keep falling

like a feather falls with no weight or rush but softly like wings rasp in the air.

Our hearts stay a cold resin, deep in the old oak, a wind nor a bird could lift

with song- but memory, a pressing cloud
barely touches and touches

every thing- and heralds every step.